BANKING group Barclays said its UK operation had performed well as it posted a 23 per cent rise in half-year pre-tax profits to a record £2.4bn.

The group said its core UK banking business increased profits by six per cent to £1.2bn in the period to June 30.

Barclays' stockbroking and international business saw profits rise by 52 per cent to £196m. Barclaycard increased its contribution by 11 per cent to £428m.

The bank boosted its interim dividend to shareholders by 17 per cent to 8p.

Group chief executive Matthew Barrett said Barclays had a record half-year, with all businesses delivering higher profits.

He said the economic outlook for the remainder of the year looked healthy, with the world economy continuing to expand briskly.

In a press briefing, the company refused to comment on market speculation linking it to a possible counter-bid for Abbey, which is the subject of an £8bn takeover bid by Spanish bank Banco Santander Central Hispano.

Barclays also said it could not rule out further job losses at the London head office of its UK retail banking business on top of 800 already announced in June.

The group said any cuts would be part of efficiency savings from merging its UK retail banking and UK business banking activities, which will pay for an extra 1,000 staff in the retail business and improvements to systems.